Obama backs young candidate for state treasurer
February 24, 2006 (WLS) -- US Senator Barack Obama is using his political influence for several candidates running for office in Illinois this year. He has made an expensive TV commercial endorsing a young candidate in the state treasurer's race.
Barack Obama used to play basketball with a young man from a wealthy Chicago banking family, and when Obama ran for the Senate, the young man volunteered a lot of time and his family kicked in a lot of money. Now that the young man is running for state treasurer in the Democratic primary, it's payback time, and Obama is using his star power in such a big way it could determine the outcome of the race.
Alexi Giannoulias is 29 years old. He has never run for office before and the Illinois Democratic party is backing another candidate for state treasurer, prosecutor Paul Mangieri of downstate Galesburg. Bbut Giannoulias has one of the most valuable political allies a relatively unknown newcomer could ask for, superstar Senator Barack Obama, and enough money to take full advantage of the relationship in the final weeks of the Democratic primary race.
Obama is the narrator in a new TV spot that launches a million-dollar-plus statewide ad campaign, financed in large part by Giannoulias's wealthy family which owns the Broadway Bank in Chicago, where Alexi's a vice president and contributes a lot of money to a lot of candidates, including Obama.
"The treasurer's job is a financial job. He's the candidate who has financial experience," said Senator Barack Obama, (D)-Illinois.
"When he told me he would be endorsing my candidacy, I promised I would never waver in my inherent desire to help people at every level have better lives," said Alexi Giannoulias, (D)-candidate for state treasurer.
The Democratic party is trying to help Mangieri with a radio ad featuring secretary of state Jesse White and a hard-hitting mailer connecting one of the Broadway Bank's clients and a Giannoulias campaign contributor to the lobbying scandal in Washington.
But Mangieri, a former Naval officer and father of 12, may not have enough money for his own TV ads unless party chairman and house speaker Michael Madigan kicks in a lot more campaign cash than he has so far.
"In any race, it's decided by the voters, regardless of who endorses you or backs you," said Paul Mangieri, (D)-candidate for state treasurer.
Mangieri is at the mercy of the Democratic party because he is not independently wealthy and his fundraising has been lackluster. If he can't get on TV with paid ads, he could be in trouble.
But house speaker Mike Madigan may not mind all that much, because he recruited Mangieri to increase the downstate turnout in contested house races. So if Madigan's house Democrats win, he may not care if Mangieri loses to Giannoulias.
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